As someone who is raising a teenager, I secretly enjoy reading parenting columns related to raising teens. Not that I actually have any problems – but you know how it is to be a parent. As my Mom would constantly point out, one does not need to be a parent to parent someone. In fact, most of the strategies extolled by experts apply to almost all relationships. The thing is, teenagers yearn for independence, but it is our duty as parent or guardian to make sure they get it along with a sense of responsibility.
Tricky job, because teenagers at that stage where they assume they know everything, most of them are over-confident and all of them want to impress. Such a natural part of growing up.
It is not easy being a parent. I am always conscious of the fact that I must exude a combination of love and authority without seeming like a pushover. Mostly, I like to think I succeed. But there are times….hey, nobody’s perfect…and…good news? Nobody has to be!
Here is what I’ve learned – or think I have!
Giving power, with responsibility, is good
The power makes him feel important and enthusiastic to do what is expected of him. Of course we have expectations! And so does he. When we give, we get. It also helps him become a better decision makers, make better choices and helps him grow. When he makes not-such-a-good-decision, he learns from the experience.
Boundaries are good. So are limits
Just like we set limits for safety when he was little, and taught him to be kind, to be compassionate, and set boundaries in relation to others, we continue to do it now, except in a broader way, simply because he’s older and understands more. This, I believe, influences his individuality as he realizes who he is, what he’s capable of. He knows the choices he has and experiments with them, adopting those that align with what he wants. And we respect it.
Our job is to present the choices
And the consequences, in a relaxed manner. No yelling. Never works in our house anyway. We don’t believe in rudeness. If one of us does slip up, we have the rewind technique. We just go back to that point and start over. It also breaks the ice on that situation. We’re usually rewarded with “I know you did it for my good”. Imagine dealing with an angry teenager – because that is what we would end up with if we were pushy.
In general, I’ve found that most children will listen when you tell them why you want them to do what you tell them to do. I remember, one of my teen’s issues would be to get up from the computer in exactly 2 hours. We’d remind him and he’d say “one min” and continue to sit there for the next half hour. We had to find a way to make him stick to his 2-hour commitment. Here’s what I did. I said “Wind up at 6 o’clock” (the rule). Then, together, we discussed ways he could do it. He chose one that looked do-able. If it didn’t work, he picked another. Over the years, he’s become pretty good at time-management.
Blind them with science
My best friend’s advice. Always present facts. Not empty threats. Give them statistics. Info that isn’t straight out of your head. With all the peer pressure they live with, someone has to draw them out and show them there’s a world out there. No lecturing, no preaching. Just plain information-giving.
No spur of the moment filler responses
Never give in to the urge to respond impulsively. It is okay to admit you don’t know something. No need to have all the answers. But it IS important to be calm. When I can’t decide right away, I simply defer it. It leads to safer decisions. Sometimes, it feels like being at the end of the rope and we commit to things we regret later. No need to do this. I learned this the hard way. When I am stuck for a response, I just take a few deep breaths.
Never sweat the small stuff!
Avoid nitpicking. Avoid nagging. Luckily, it is not in my nature to do either. Fighting with teenagers especially over minor things is a no-no. Rather than get irritated and whine about what he’s not doing in spite of being told hundreds of times, I gently remind him. I leave notes all over the place. Putting away those clothes, tidying up that shelf, making the bed – are all important but not so much that it messes up relationships. The energy is better spent over things that matter.
When I feel low, I talk to other parents
Not only is this highly therapeutic, it also gives me the warm feeling that I am not alone. It helps me learn more about behavior patterns. Nothing like peer support to make you feel better and take the panic away.
Include them in everything
Teenagers have a tendency to isolate themselves and do their own thang. While space is important, so is participation. I’ve seen families where the teens are indulged so much that they get away with not doing a lot of things – not eating together, not attending family events or dropping out from a trip. So there will be certain things they don’t want to attend – but it is good to discuss what is acceptable and what’s not. We’ve always insist on sharing our day’s events and eating together. This is non-negotiable and I believe it keeps us close.
Above all, teenagers must get enough zzzz to learn and function efficiently. I think I am lucky that my son takes this seriously and is in bed by 10.00 – reads for a little while and then sleeps and is up around 6.30. I make sure he eats well and enjoys his food.
So far, so good. While we don’t know what the future holds, we’re confident we’ll tackle whatever we’re faced with together, with understanding.
What do you think? Are you raising teens?
What parenting moments have made you smile?
Day 7 of the Ultimate Blogging Challenge July 2014
BlogHer NaBloPoMo July 2014